My room was shaped like a physical heart and painted bright red with navy blue trim and a blue door. I had a huge British flag on the wall by my bed, a Sweeney Todd poster, and a map of the underground that I’d use to plan my runaways to England when I couldn’t sleep at night. When I was about 12 I put a picture of Gerard Butler as The Phantom of the Opera above my bed and that stayed there until I was 23. I found it charming, but none of the boys who came into my room felt the same.
In my bed, I wrote the largest part of my novel. I started this blog and met you beautiful people and fell in love with your words. I did midnight homework assignments and memorized monologue after monologue in high school. In my little twin size bed, I sobbed after reading Looking for Alaska and The Book Thief for the first time when I was fifteen and sixteen. I cried when I reread them, always making sure to finish them in the same bed where they both began. I loved words in that bed.
When Michael broke my heart, I slid down against my wall near the door and sobbed for hours. I laid myself out across the floor and listened to The Killers and let myself scream, keeping the music pounding against the heartbeat walls. I was sitting against my bed trying to get my tears under control when I got a text that my best friend’s father died that same day. Suddenly my best friend, who was always the boy I should have kissed, had a broken heart bigger than my own and I didn’t know what to do except to sit on my floor in my red room.
When I left for college and found that the new world I was a part of down at that campus was made of pain and burning between my thighs, I came home and barricaded myself in my room, laying on the floor with a pillow under my head and a blanket over both myself and the heating vent. I fell asleep in that little pod of warmth until my friends thought I’d killed myself and knocked against my window to make sure I was still breathing.
I almost kissed that best friend on my front porch. I did kiss the boy who watched the stars and ached for me to wish for him. I kissed him on the driveway and then turned my cheek against his lips when we stood on the front porch after I told him I was going to college and couldn’t see myself dating someone who was 16 as I entered college. In that same driveway two years later, I told the boy who’d eaten my heart and then spat it up in my face to never contact me again. Then I burned him off of my skin in my bathtub, sitting in the dark water alone.
R walked me to my back door in the snow and we walked back and forth between my fence and that door five times, trading the final kiss goodnight before I finally went inside. I raced to the front door and watched him sitting in his car in the driveway before he motioned me back out. He pinned me against the garage door and we kissed with the stars watching. That night my red room seemed even darker while my blood thickened in my veins with new romance.
I had sleepovers with Niki and midnight slurpees while we watched shitty movies on Netflix that we both pretended not to like even though we both cried at the end and were clearly invested. We woke up early together and drove away from my house in the misty morning air. After all day play practice, I came home and passed out on the couch with hot chocolate slowly cooling on the coffee table next to long forgotten math homework.
After my parents divorced when I was seven, my mom woke me early one morning to tell me we had a new house to go to. She said it had a playhouse in the backyard, which turned out to be a wasp infested shed. But there was a jetted tub in her master bathroom and I spent hours each night sitting in that tub pretending to be a Mermaid waiting for my prince. Our first night in the new house, I had a coughing fit that is still unexplained that lasted for four hours. Once we got to the doctor’s the coughing stopped and they sent us back home, where I crawled right back into that tub. The house was already where my lungs needed to be to feel calm.
I passed from first to sixth grade in what felt like minutes and then had my first day of Junior high. I wore stupid heels and had blisters for weeks after that first day. I promised myself I wouldn’t do the same thing for high school and forgot that promise three years later as I reached into my closet for heels I felt made me look ready for high school. There were spots of blood on my carpet from popping blisters.
I stared at my gold graduation robe in the mirror on the morning I’d be graduating High School. My red room was so bright that day. The heels I wore did not leave blisters and I cried thinking I’d only have three more months in that room until I moved away. Then it would only be Christmas breaks and summers. I held out my hands and touched the walls before my dad honked to tell me he was here to take me to graduate.
Once when I was eight, I was so furious at my mother that I left a muddy handprint on the wall. Instead of getting mad at me, I came out the next morning and saw that she had painted flowers around the hand and framed it. Yesterday I had to say goodbye to my childhood home, riddled with my handprints and my memories. I sat in my empty room by myself weeping as I could hear the new owners already beginning the remodel. As I left, they handed me a few more boxes of pictures that had been forgotten. And just like that, I said goodbye to 16 years.
Oh, Em. This is so lovely. I'm bawling at work. Thank you for sharing your heart.
I think sometimes we take for granted the memories that exist under a roof. We forget there are stories before ours, and that there are memories in those walls we will never know (and no one after your family will know of yours)
This was so lovely. I felt like I got such a wonderful glimpse into your life.
I have older sisters which means the only time that I was able to have my own room was when I got to college. Even then, I have to learn to move between dormitories, to only keep what seems essential: books, clothes, and even people. Nothing is permanent even in what we call home.
This was so beautifully written. It tore at my heart and left tiny little aches.
You write so beautifully and so evocatively – there was such a true, clear sense of nostalgia in this, and I ached when you described the rainbow spectrum of your memories – the kisses, the sleepovers, the heartbreaks, the quiet moments – all of them tinged with the red of the walls, of the love in your blood for the house that you grew up in, where you grew through friends and phases, where you wrote and dreamed and loved and took shape. There are those who would say a house is just walls and a roof, and the memories don't live there but in your mind and heart, and there is a certain truth to that, I think. But I also find it hard to believe that tiny parts of the people we were and the dreams we had in those places aren't absorbed by the stones, don't roost in the attic like tiny bats, don't settle in the floorboard like the tears we scattered there, the sweat we left behind. And in that way, when we leave behind a place we love, we leave behind a part of ourselves – a tiny corner of our heart will always carry its dust and its shadows.
ps – I need to see the Amy doc xxx
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Love this so much!
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